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Master Gardener: Ever think about becoming a Master Gardener?

Gwen Swenson-Hale
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Master Gardeners Sally House and Barbara Sanders, from left, answered questions about soil at “An Evening with the Master Gardeners” held at the Yampa River Botanic Park in May.
Courtesy photo

Do you get excited when seeds you have planted start sprouting? Do you search out fellow gardeners and ask them questions about how they combat deer, voles, aphids or grasshoppers? Does it delight you when friends ask you for gardening advice? If so, you might want to consider becoming a Master Gardener.

There are about 45 Master Gardeners serving Routt County, and applications have just opened for the class of 2022.

“Master Gardeners tend to be people who love to learn, are comfortable and excited to share that knowledge and who aren’t afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,’” said Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County Extension director and agriculture agent.



Hagenbuch went on to explain that there are two main misconceptions about the Master Gardener program. The first is that it is a type of garden club where everyone meets to share information within the group. The second is that the primary form of volunteer service Master Gardeners perform is manual labor in gardens. The truth is that the main role and purpose of Master Gardeners is to educate local residents about best gardening practices based on research.

“Master Gardeners are deputized by Colorado State University (which runs the statewide Master Gardener program) to spread gardening education,” Hagenbuch said.



Master Gardeners accomplish this by answering phone calls and emails at the Routt County Extension Office, staffing diagnostic clinics and information booths, serving as greeters at the Yampa River Botanic Park, teaching gardening classes, writing newspaper and website articles and mentoring community gardening and greening projects, just to name a few.

The Master Gardener course begins mid-January and runs through April. It includes self-paced online courses, live webinar-based courses and live weekly Q&As with subject matter experts from CSU. Combined with in-person local classes and hands-on labs (COVID-19 protocols allowing), students have the flexibility to learn at home at their own pace and practice with fellow volunteers.

“The program and materials were excellent,” said Evelyn Cole, Master Gardener apprentice in this year’s class. “I learned that there were lots of things I had been doing wrong. I’m also very excited to try growing vegetables. I’ve never had a vegetable garden, but now, I have a good idea about how to go about it.”

The cost to take the Master Gardener course is $200, although there are scholarships to reduce that cost. Once you have passed the course, 50 hours minimum of volunteer time is required before Oct. 31.

More information about the Master Gardener program and the application process can be found at CMG.Extension.ColoState.edu. Applications are due by Dec. 1.

“Routt County benefits in many ways from having a strong group of Master Gardeners,” Hagenbuch said. “They expand the capacity of our office to answer resident questions, and all the volunteer hours provided help educate our neighbors about how to make good decisions about their properties.”

Gwen Swenson-Hale is a Master Gardener apprentice from the 2021 class. She can talk for hours about flowers and is always conducting garden experiments — some planned, some not so much.


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